Dover couple takes Halloween to heart


Scary creatures including a space alien from War of the Worlds were all handmade by Jim Bell on Lakewood Place in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Scary creatures including a space alien from War of the Worlds were all handmade by Jim Bell on Lakewood Place in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The strange and spine-chilling creatures that occupy the yard surrounding a house at 645 Lakewood Place in the Lakewood Gardens subdivision make it appear as if the home might be occupied by the Addams Family, or perhaps the Munsters.

Open the door, however, and you won’t find Gomez and Morticia Addams. Instead, meet Jim and Carol Bell, who simply enjoy all the thrills and chills the Halloween season has to offer.

To the Bells, Halloween is their Christmas — a season that never stops giving.

Heck, they even wanted to get married on Halloween, but found out they had to wait a couple of weeks for an appointment with the Justice of the Peace.

“It’s pretty easy to see that we really enjoy Halloween,” Mrs. Bell said.

The Bells’ yard is a virtual cornucopia of terror, from the two tall ghouls standing guard at their front door to more than a dozen tombstones in the right side of their yard to a wild looking alien overseeing the left side … and that’s just some of the highlights.

It has become a neighborhood tradition since the Bells moved into their home four years ago.

“Nowadays, the neighbors can’t wait,” Mrs. Bell said, of the couple’s annual spooktacular display. “They keep on walking by and watching and it takes us about a month to set it up. They notice that a new piece is here or there. It’s always fun.”

That’s not to mention the basement, which temporarily is transformed into a dungeon full of unexpected surprises including plastic rats, zombie-looking mannequins and severed heads. It’s where the Bells host an annual Halloween party for some of their neighbors and friends each year.

A large Halloween themed decorations at Jim and Carol Bell's home on Lakewood Place in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

A large Halloween themed decorations at Jim and Carol Bell’s home on Lakewood Place in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

That party took place last Saturday — and word has it that everybody who attended got out alive.

Mr. Bell said he became enamored with Halloween after he designed a costume several years ago and went to several different nightspots. He won a bunch of different contests with a get-up of an Army blanket covered in skulls.

Now, he has turned his attention to putting a little taste of fear into unsuspecting souls who dare approach his home to trick-or-treat.

With the touch of a handyman’s hands and more than a little creativity, Mr. Bell delivers a bit more to his haunt with each passing season.

“It’s all made of junk,” he said, of his many creations. “The only thing I put money into is just glue, or maybe fencing. I’ll go up to [Spence’s Bazaar] and I might find something up there for a buck or two and snatch it up.

“I bring home a lot of stuff that I have to fix, with electronics and all. A wire might be pulled out of the back of it or something. It’s not really about having a lot of skills. Mainly, it’s just a little bit of thinking.”

Mrs. Bell joked that her husband is probably on a first-name basis with every dollar store throughout the city.

“I think he went to 15 dollar stores to get a chain for his fence,” she said.

She admits that even she has to shake her head sometimes at some of the things that he brings to life.

“We have flamingos out this year,” said Mrs. Bell. “Some people get flocked with pink flamingos in their yard. Well, someone gave him some of those, so he painted them black and made three-headed flamingos.”

Along with three-headed flamingos and geese with skeleton heads, their yard also contains the tombstones of: B.A. Fraid, Al B. Rightback, Phil Dirt, Mona Lot and others.

“Just about everything out here lights up,” Mr. Bell said, which makes nighttime particularly spooky.

“It’s scared a couple of people already,” he said. “We had a neighbor who walked down here the other day and she didn’t know I put the guy [a mannequin] on the corner there next to the tree and it [scared] her. It got the granddaughter going to school, too.

“I like to scare people a little bit, but not too much.”

Mrs. Bell, who is a seamstress, contributes to the madness by sewing the costumes for the mannequins and assorted creatures that include aliens, skeletons, vampires, witches and whatever else may be lurking in their yard.

“I have to build the costumes and make do with whatever he wants to shrink, fix or expand,” she said.

“I think my favorite thing out in the yard is the hearse. The hearse is made from a little square planter for flowers and it’s stretched out and a cat coffin is put on it.”

For the Bells, it’s always about adding different, more interesting ideas. It takes nearly two months to get everything together.

“You’ve got to have new stuff,” Mr. Bell said. “Every year I get rid of a few things and add a few things. There’s always something more that can be added.”

However, one thing remains the same — the screams emanating from around their yard on Halloween night.

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